Thursday, January 4, 2018

Jumper Cables

Not all jumper cables are created equal. Many people go to the store, see jumper cables and just buy the cheapest ones. It's just copper connecting 2 batteries, right? Wrong. A professional set of jumper cables (1-4 AWG wire) should be able to start the stranded vehicle directly from the donor vehicle. A cheap set like this 10 gauge set (remember that in American Wire Gauge, smaller number equals thicker wire) has to sit for a while and hopefully actually charge the dead battery enough to start the stranded vehicle. Unfortunately, I've seen this take as long as 5 minutes. On a car with a completely bad battery, I've seen it not work at all.
So don't just go buy the cheapest jumper cables you can find, take a look, do 5 minutes worth of research and buy a higher quality set. A high quality set of jumper cables should last at least the life of the vehicle, if not your entire life as a driver. I typically recommend this about $20 set from AAA, but even a professional quality set of 1-2 AWG jumper cables should only cost $50-60 as of the writing of this article.

As always, stay safe out there. I'll see you on the road.

Ford and GM part numbers

With a GM vehicle, if I need a part I just pull the part off the car or look it up online, find the part number, and then go to ebay or oreillyauto or wherever to find and order the correct part. Let's do an example. For a 2005 GMC Sierra spare tire jack toolkit. I can go to any search engine, type in "GM 22969377" and find exactly the part I'm looking for. There's no confusion, and that part number will get me exactly what I want, the jack and tools for the 2000 - 2013 GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado pickups.
Let's try that with an F150. The first hurdle that you will find is...what is the part number? Well a pretty exhaustive search online may eventually tell you that it's Ford part 17080. Except, Ford 17080 is the jack and tools for every Ford vehicle. Searching for that part could yield you parts for a 1938 Model A just as quickly as a 2005 F150. Okay, so there must be more to it. You also have to include the engineering number, which can often be more difficult to find. Even if you do find it, the first digit of the engineering number is the year, so for the 2005 F150, the engineering number is 5L1Z, giving us a total part number of 5L1Z-17080. But wait, aren't they all the same between 2004 and 2009? Yep, they are, and not every seller of that part will list all the compatibility between those years for each part, so you might find a 4L3Z-17080 for $30 and is identical in every way to your 5L1Z-17080 selling for $50. So if you want to pinch pennies (which, if you're looking for auto parts online, is probably a given) you have to check every compatible year for the lowest price. Smart, right?

Stay safe out there. I'll see you on the road.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Gun Control

Which gun is more dangerous?

Look at these two rifles pictured above. Can you tell which one is more dangerous? Okay, I know, I'm talking about something that's highly divisive in the USA (and much of the world) right now. There's the crazed gun lovers with collections worth tens of thousands who will kick and scream if anyone even hints that background checks are a good thing. On the other side there are fearful citizens and Mom's Demand Action groups vocally stating their belief that all guns should be forcibly removed from the hands of civilians to somehow prevent all gun-related injuries and deaths in the world. 

Both sides are wrong.

"Common sense" is something that current President Obama said in his recent speech about executive actions on gun control. However, what he meant was 'emotional', as was clearly demonstrated by him tearing up while answering questions. No political leader, good or bad, should make decisions based on emotions, especially when those emotions are so strong as to bring him or her to tears. Common sense is knowing that you are too emotional to make good decisions.  Common sense is considering all sides of an issue, looking at mistakes made in the past, and making decisions based on facts, statistics, and a deep level of understanding. American citizens should use real common sense in regards to gun control.

Let's go back to my original question. Which rifle is more dangerous? According to people who favor the "assault weapons" ban, the rifle on the right is clearly more dangerous. It has a pistol grip, flash suppressor, collapsible stock, large detachable magazine, and a barrel shroud, all of which (apparently) make the weapon appear much more deadly. The rifle on the left, on the other hand, has a large detachable magazine and...well, that's about it.  Such superficial visual features, however, do not determine the deadliness of the weapon.

The weapon on the right, the "assault weapon" if you will, is the Smith and Wesson 15-22. It is capable of semi-automatic fire only (you have to pull the trigger each time you want a bullet to fire) and fires the .22lr cartridge, pictured right. This cartridge launches a 2-3 gram projectile at ~1200 feet per second and is accurate enough to be used really at a maximum range of ~100 yards under most circumstances. Its primary use is target shooting at short range, typically 25-50 yards, and for hitting tin cans, water jugs, and other things just for 'plinking'. It is used by the Boy Scouts of America in order to earn the marksmanship badge.
The weapon on the left, on the other hand is the M14 rifle. It is capable of sustained fully automatic fire, and fires the .308 Winchester cartridge, pictured left. This cartridge shoots a 8-11 gram projectile at speeds reaching as much as 3,100 feet per second and, according the the US Army, is reliably accurate at 800 yards. It was used by the US military as standard service rifle from 1959-1964 and is still occasionally used for special service roles today. It is popular among hunters and distance target shooters alike.

So, which weapon is more dangerous? After reading about each weapon above, you may want to say, well the one on the left, obviously. It's an actual military rifle, used in the defense of American liberty for years! In truth, neither weapon is dangerous. Neither rifle will pick itself up, load a round in the chamber, point itself at someone and pull its own trigger. All of that requires a human, and that human is what can be deadly, not the weapon itself.

I hate waiting for the 2 minutes it takes to run a NICS check as much as the next person, but I have to admit, I am glad it exists. I'm glad that criminals barred from ever possessing a firearm can't just walk into a respectable gun shop and purchase weapons and ammunition from an unsuspecting store clerk, no questions asked. I recognize that the background checks don't keep weapons out of the hands of criminals, but a complete ban on private gun ownership would, in my opinion, just make things worse. During prohibition cartels smuggled alcohol into the US. After the ban on marijuana in the 1950's, cartels have been smuggling weed (among other drugs) into the US. A ban on firearms would simply provide a new method for cartels to make money, a new banned good to be sold on the black market. At least with a legal market for guns for the majority of individuals, guns don't present a great way for cartels to make money in the US, and even better, allows individual American citizens to defend themselves against just such criminal organizations if threatened.